Name this cake I bought last year. It's not a "piano forte."
May 29, 2015 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Last Christmas season, I went to a restaurant store and bought a cake. It was nicely wrapped, and could easily keep for several weeks. It was not a fruitcake. It definitely had cake like texture, though not light like an angel food cake. It had different flavors, like chocolate, or coffee, or raisin chocolate. It looked like some sort of a bundt cake.

The cake was also available at Costco, though for a much lower price. I believe the general cost is somewhere between $20-$50 for the cake. The one we bought was individually wrapped with a ribbon, and another customer bought about 8 of these to give as gifts, which seemed pretty common. I believe it's a pretty common holiday cake, but searching "christmas cake" or "holiday gift cake" gives me recipes for cakes with those names.

I would like to look up a recipe for this cake, since it was pretty delicious and kept extremely well (though that might just be how they make it). I thought it was "panna cotta", which is actually a pudding/custard. My husband thought it was a "piano forte" or a "panforte", but pictures from a web search do not seem to show the right thing. Most pictures show a very thin/short/shallow cake, and with lots of stuff in it. The cake we had was mostly like a cake.

Help naming this cake would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
posted by ethidda to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Panettone.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:07 PM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Panettone.
posted by zamboni at 1:07 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ask Mefi to the rescue. Thank you!
posted by ethidda at 1:09 PM on May 29, 2015

panforte is, in fact, something different (something easier to make and in my opinion more delicious)
posted by crush-onastick at 1:17 PM on May 29, 2015

(Panettone is excellent as French toast.)
posted by hmo at 2:15 PM on May 29, 2015

It's also truly excellent as bread pudding. Cut or tear into chunks. Pour over a custard:

5 egg yolks whipped with 1/2c sugar until pale yellow. Pour in 1 litre 35% cream boiled with a vanilla bean--whisk while pouring in. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Bake, covered, in a buttered dish for ~40 minutes @350F. Serve with whipped cream.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:12 PM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Another excellent recipe to make with it (I'm hazy on the measurements):

Get a big panettone and cut the whole thing into slices, 1/2 or 3/4-inch thick, like bread slices thick.

Line a big mixing bowl with plastic wrap.

Layer nearly all the slices (with lots of overlap - this is the outer shell of the pudding) round the base and sides of the big mixing bowl and dampen the slices with sweet wine (or coffee if you like coffee and don't like wine, or something like grape juice if you don't like either).

Save one big slice (maybe the end piece) for later.

Mix up a bunch of mascarpone (regular cream cheese would do in a pinch) with powder sugar, dried fruits/peel, nuts, chocolate chunks, spiced syrup, more sweet wine if you go for that - anything that sounds good, basically - and dump that into the middle of the slices. Enough that it fills the slice-"bowl" up to near the top.

Put the big slice on top - hopefully it should cover the whole thing, as it's meant to be the base. Add more wine/coffee/liquid/whatever so that the whole thing's nice and moist, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge or someplace cool overnight with something heavy on top of the base slice. This should squish it all down into a dome-shaped cake.

Turn it out of the bowl the next day, dust with more powder sugar/cocoa/whatever and then eat it in huge tasty slices.

Aside from the prep time, it's surprisingly impressive as a dessert to show off to people given how little actual cooking effort it takes.

(I have made this with hot cross bun loaf when it wasn't panettone season. I am not ashamed.)
posted by terretu at 3:36 PM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you like Panettone you will like Pandoro, the other Italian Christmas cake, but without the raisins and candied fruit.
posted by francesca too at 3:44 PM on May 29, 2015

You might also be interested in German Stollen which is very similar to Panettone, though generally a little denser. Really, both are just fairly basic brioche with some add-ins (dried fruit, etc.) If you learn to make a basic brioche, you can make pretty much any variation that you desire. In any case, they are all breads, not cakes, so bread techniques are applicable.

(Brioche is the "cake" in "Let them eat cake!")
posted by ssg at 4:36 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Panettone/Pandoro is also great in a nice, boozy trifle.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 2:52 AM on May 30, 2015

Stollen is nothing like panettone. The latter is a chemical-risen cake, while the former is made from a yeast dough.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:00 AM on May 30, 2015

Pannetone has a light, bready quality (it's made with yeast) whereas Pandoro is more cakey and is usually in a more bundt-cake-like shape.

Are you sure it wasn't Pandoro you bought?
posted by essexjan at 6:03 AM on May 30, 2015

Visit the Loison website for a look at how panetonne is made in one of Italy's premier pasticceri: their panetonne is incredibly light, buttery and generously dotted with candied, and dried fruits.
posted by travellingincognito at 6:40 AM on May 31, 2015

Are you still reading? If you are: I tried for several years to bake my own Panettone. It is really difficult to get the right texture and taste. So now I buy them, even as I make most other foods from scratch.
posted by mumimor at 11:24 AM on May 31, 2015

Response by poster: essexjan: Yes, I'm sure it was Panettone. Pandoro sounds fun too.

mumimor: I'm not saying I'll *succeed* at making panettone, but I'd like to try. I can follow most (well-written) cake recipes, and my husband regularly makes sourdough bread, though that's a fairly easy no knead recipe. (We keep a sourdough starter.) So I'm hoping that between the two of us, it will at least be edible.

I love the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (I've been baking one or two cakes a week to learn proper cake baking skills), and she has two separate panettone recipes in other books, one in the Bread Bible and one in the Baking Bible. I plan to try both (the one from the Baking Bible first, because I believe it has easier techniques). Hopefully, one will turn out.

I will probably also try to make the Pandoro.
posted by ethidda at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2015

Response by poster: Probably nobody cares, but just to close the loop before I mark this as resolved: I made Rose Beranbaum's Golden Orange Panettone. It took 5 days end to end, and it's not perfect, but it turned out really, really good still. I would definitely make it again.
posted by ethidda at 1:16 PM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

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